Last year Ann Mah published a delightful book about French cuisine called Mastering the Art of French Eating. I became aware of it because my own recently-published book Dining Out in Paris—What You Need to Know before You Get to the City of Light treats a similar theme, namely French food and dining culture. I read her book in two evenings, and then decided to try one of her recipes, Bœuf à la Bourguignonne.
She calls this dish Bœuf à la Bourguignonne rather than Bœuf Bourguignon, because she believes that the reader should be able to use any kind of red wine, not just Burgundy wine. I purchased most of the ingredients from the local food market on rue Mouffetard, including a bottle of Rasteau, a Rhone Valley red, from Nicolas. From Pascal Gosnet I purchased two beef cheeks; from Picard Surgélé I purchased a bag of frozen pearl onions and a bag of frozen sliced button mushrooms; from Halles Mouffetard, I purchased an onion, a leek, and carrots; and from Franprix I purchased a small bottle of Cognac, a jar of juniper berries, and lardon matchsticks (bacon chopped into small slivers). I already had the other ingredients in the pantry.
I allotted an entire afternoon for the preparation of the dish. By the time I was finished I had lots of pots, pans, and utensils to wash! But the next day, when my wife and I set down to dinner, I concluded that the hearty dish was worth the effort.
I chopped the leek, onion, and carrots into 1″ pieces as Ann instructed.
I cut the beef cheeks into 3″ pieces. This was the hard part, because my knife wasn’t sharp and because a membrane on the cheek was too tough to cut. I removed it by cutting away at the meat rather than at the membrane. I saved this meaty scrap and boiled it later for beef stock. Then, I put everything in the pot (except the meat scrap) to await the wine bath in which the vegetables and beef would be immersed.
I poured the wine into the pot. Naturally, I tasted the wine first: it was medium-bodied with a rich aroma of red fruits. Very nice!
Then I covered the pot, making sure that all of the meat was immersed, and put it in the refrigerator to marinate overnight.
The following day I removed the beef chunks from the marinade and put them in a frying pan with olive oil to brown. Ann said that they would turn golden and crusted, but they never did. Oh, well.
I removed the meat from the frying pan and set it aside. Then I browned the vegetables. They never got very brown either, so I had to pretend that they were browned.
I put the vegetables and meat back into the frying pan and flamed them with cognac. Then, I returned the beef and vegetables to the pot with the marinade and let them simmer for three hours.
I prepared the garniture: sautéed mushrooms, pearl onions, and lardon matchsticks. This all went into the pot with the beef, vegetable, and marinade to simmer for an additional ten minutes.
It was finished. Voilà! (The vegetables are discarded. The beef is served without the marinade. Later, I used the marinade to make a rich cabbage and carrot soup.)
It was truly a dish that was suitable for serving on a chilly fall day. We found the beef to be tender with a somewhat gamey flavor. I speculated that the flavor came from the mushrooms, wine, and smoked bacon, not from the meat. (I tasted the meat in the beef stock that had been prepared without marinade, and it didn’t taste gamey.) There was enough beef left over for another meal, which we had two days later.
Thank you, Ann Mah, for writing the book and sharing the recipe for this savory dish!